It’s common for chess writers to refer to the game as a sport, a science and an art.
That was apparently the original view of Marcel Duchamp, the artist best-known for his
ground-breaking cubist painting
Nude Descending a Staircase (1912).
In 1923, Duchamp – a legend after producing just 20 works and assuming a major role in defining
the dadaist movement – retired to play chess.
He participated on several French Olympic teams and eventually grew disappointed to discover
that chess was a “violent” sport instead of an artistic haven.
The sporting aspect, indeed, dominates the game. Rarely, if ever, do we find a leading
grandmaster talking about chess as an art form. Winning is usually the focus.
This isn’t to say that grandmasters are insensitive to the aesthetics of their craft. But the
sporting struggle comes first.
That viewpoint was expounded upon eloquently by Emmanuel Lasker – a century ago – before a 1908
world-championship match with Siegbert Tarrasch: “He (Tarrasch) will accept the efficacy and
usefulness of a move if at the same time he considers it beautiful. I believe in its strength. I
think by being strong, a move is beautiful, too.”
Or, in the words of poet John Keats: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all ye know on
earth, and all ye need to know.”
Shelby Lyman is a Basic Chess Features columnist.
Find a multiple threat.
Solution to Beginner’s corner:
1. Re7! If 2. Rxe7, Bxe7 (threatens 3. Rxe8 as well as 3. Bxf6).
How the masters play
Below is a win by Alexander Motylev against Michele Godena from the European Individual
Championships in Rijeka, Croatia.